An Ode to the Cooking Show

by thethreepennyguignol

For those who’ve stuck around at the Guignol since its inception, you may remember that time I was just really depressed and lay in bed all day writing about the cooking shows that happened to be on TV that afternoon and talking about how I wanted to fuck Guy Fieri (it was a dark time in my life, alright, we’re moving on). And, you know, I’ve always loved a good cooking show, even when I’m not hiding under the covers trying to figure out if I’m more anxious or more hungover. Considering this blog is all about my passionate love of television, I feel like it’s about time I took a little wander down a pathway that has lately brought me so much joy in some recent hard times.

The genre of cookery television swings between either savagely po-faced and boring or unabashed flaming camp with literally nothing in between, and I’ve always been at the far end of the spectrum when it comes to my culinary TV. But it’s only in the last couple of months that I have rediscovered my love for cookery shows, and I think there’s a good reason for that.

And yeah, part of that reason is because there have been a few fantastically odd little shows dropping on to the scene lately – my personal favourites being Nailed It, the delightfully good-natured pile of snark and bad baking and sarcastic text overlays, and The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, a horror-themed baking show that’s The Addams Family meets Delia Smith. Streaming services have been delivering with great hunking seasons of really fucking weird cookery shows, as well as some fantastically engaging ones, like Chef’s Table and Salt Fat Acid Heat. For a food nerd like me, they’re a gift.

But, as I’ve written just an outrageous number of times on this blog, the pop culture we consume can have a big impact on the way we navigate through the world. As I wrote last year, I dealt with some severely disordered eating for a long period of my life, and honestly, during that time, I became really afraid of food, a fear which has continued to this day, even if it’s less pronounced than it once was. Which I can say sounds crazy to me, even now, because it’s food: I need it to live, to function, to exist. But when things are tough, as they have been for me lately, I find myself restricting again, controlling food in an unhealthy way because it’s something I can keep an iron grip on. What I eat dictates whether or not I can feel good about myself day to day. And when you see food as a way to exert control over your life, it’s hard to love it. It’s hard to even tolerate it, sometimes.

But watching these kinds of shows has opened up the door, just a crack, once again, to remembering why food used to be something I took such joy in. Seeing people spend time, effort, and energy on food, allowing themselves to eat because they enjoy it and share that food with other people (or raccoon zombie puppets – Christine McConnell’s show is awesome, is what I’m saying) without worrying about the calories or the fat content or how long they need to wait before they can puke it up again is just something I really, really need right now. Seeing people laugh and enjoy and bond over their food has reminded me what that felt like for me, too.

I’m trying to let go of some of the control over things I know won’t hurt me, and I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that food isn’t waiting down a back alley with a Bowie knife ready to carve my innards out. I’m still not at a place where I can consume food in my day-to-day life without any fear or panic or guilt, but consuming these shows has been a really sweet way to allow myself to, in some form, at least, begin to enjoy food again.

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(header image via Eater)